The Treasure of Craig-y-Ddinas
The Rock of the Fortress, was a hillfort during the Iron Age period, it is supposed to have been one of the last place the fairies lived in Britain. The following legend conforms to a folklore motif found throughout the country, namely that of sleeping warriors under hollow hills. The full story can be found in The Recollections and Anecdotes of Edward Williams, London, 1850, by Elijah Waring.
One day a Welshman was crossing London Bridge, carrying a fine hazel staff in his hand. He was half way over the bridge, when an English stranger stopped him. “Where are you from” asked the Englishman. “I am from my own country” replied the proud Welshman curtly. ” Do not be offended,” said the Englishman ” I meant no disrespect, but if you follow my advice you could be a rich man. The staff that you are carrying comes from a place where treasure lies buried”. The stranger explained that he was a wizard, knowledgeable in the arts of the land, he had seen the hazel staff flex, as it passed over the water on London Bridge. This was a sure sign that the tree from which the staff was cut, grew over great quantities of treasure.
The Welshman had nothing to lose by showing the wizard the place where he cut the staff. They travelled together to Craig-y-Ddinas, which is now in the county of Glamorgan. Here the Welshman took him to the very tree from which he had cut the branch.
The wizard gripped the tree with both hands and uprooted it, beneath it lay a large stone slab, lifting this revealed a passage leading into the dark depths of the earth. With some trepidation they stepped inside the opening to reveal stone steps leading down a stone passage. Above the steps, hanging on the roof of the cavern was a large bell. They carefully squeezed past this and carried further underground, finally reaching a huge cavern.
The cavern was filled with hundreds of brightly armoured warriors, lying in slumber in a wide circle, with their heads towards the middle. One of the warriors was more splendidly attired than the rest, and had a bejewelled golden crown lying next to him. In the centre of this circle lay two separate piles of gold and silver, the wealth of which they had never seen. The wizard explained that he could take as much treasure as he could carry from either of the two piles but not from both.
He warned the Welshman not to touch the bell on the way out. “If you accidentally ring the bell, the knights will ask if it is the day. To that you must reply; No sleep on!”
The wizard said he had no need for worldly goods, so the Welshman gathered up as much from the separate piles as he dared, and, pockets and sacks bursting joined the wizard in ascending the stairs. The wizard passed the bell with ease but the Welshman brushed against it, releasing a dull peel that thundered through the cavern. One of the largest warriors stirred and asked “Is it the Day?” but the Welshman replied “No sleep on” and the warrior closed his eyes and resumed his slumber. They then continued their ascent, through the opening of the entrance, and out into bright sunlight.
The wizard explained that the warriors were Arthur and his knights, waiting for the day when the Black Eagle and the Golden Eagle should go to war, then the bell would ring and the army would defeat all the enemies of Cymry. From this victory they would re-establish their kingdom from their chosen location at Caerlleon. He gave a stern warning not to squander the gold, made his farewells and departed, this was the last the Welshman was to see of the wizard.
Well, the years flew by, and with all his gold spent on the luxuries of life, the Welshman returned to the cave to plunder more of the treasure. He found the slab easily enough, and went down once more into the cavern. He crept past the circle of warriors, and filled a sack he had brought with him till it was fit to burst. Toiling up the stone steps he tried to squeeze round the bell, but his immense sack of treasure caught it, and its ponderous tones echoed around the cave once more. One of the knights awoke and asked if it was the day. The Welshman, who had grown soft of mind and body in the years of squandered wealth, fumbled for the answer but could not remember the correct reply.
Suddenly, in a tumultuous sound of crashing armour, all the warriors awoke and caught hold of him, they beat him to within inches of his life and cast him from the cavern. He remained lame and poor for the rest of his life, and could never find the cave again no matter how hard he tried.
This story has many variants around Britain, the sleeping warriors being one of the more enduring myths. Other hollow hills include: Blencathra (Saddleback) Mountain, Threlkeld, Cumbria, England; The Eildon Hills, Roxburghshire, Scotland; Alderly Edge, Cheshire, England and Sewingshields in Northumberland, England.